Schick Hydro Preview: Melbourne Storm v Sydney Roosters
The Storm can all but lock-up the minor premiership when they clash with the second placed Roosters in a Saturday blockbuster at AAMI Park.
Melbourne have been almost unstoppable this season as they march towards the finals, swatting away the Cowboys with a scrappy win last round. But good teams can win ugly, and the Storm will be keen to deliver a polished performance against the Tricolours.
The Roosters had three consecutive wins before their surprise loss against the Sea Eagles on Sunday, losing 32-18. It should be a hiccup rather than a habit for Trent Robinson's men, who were outmuscled on the day by a strong Sea Eagles pack, but deserve their spot behind Melbourne as one of the most consistent teams this season.
Melbourne keeps the same 17 with no Cameron Munster or Tohu Harris. Sydney Roosters junior Ryley Jacks keeps his spot at five-eighth.
Roosters' co-captains Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend are both set to make their return after missing significant game time, with Cordner to line-up in the NRL for the first time since Round 13. They also welcome back Mitchell Aubusson and Aidan Guerra to the starting line-up, with Joseph Manu moving to the wing.
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Why the Storm can win: They are a settled line-up with only regular five-eighth Cameron Munster still missing (ankle). Wingers Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu are the in-form try-scorers and Will Chambers continues to have a strong year. Yet it is their young forward pack who are performing consistently well each week, led by Jesse Bromwich.
The Storm lead all clubs for tries scored in 2017 – they have 86 – and that's 12 more than the Roosters. They've also conceded 11 fewer tries (51 to Roosters 62).
Why the Roosters can win: Cordner and Friend will add discipline and defensive zeal, attributes that went missing last round. The Roosters were stringing together a streak of their own over the past two months, winning six of their last eight matches, so should be in a confident mood.
With two of their best players back and some motivation to atone from a disappointing last performance, the Roosters will go in with every opportunity to produce a performance worthy of their second place.
They'll also take positives from their last match against the Storm: a 25-24 victory in Adelaide seven rounds ago.
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Try Assists, Line Break Assists, Total Kicks, Tackle Breaks.
The history: Played 32; Storm 18; Roosters 14. Melbourne enjoys a 6-4 record over the past 10 clashes and at AAMI Park its 4-2 stretching back to 2010.
What are the odds: 96 per cent of the cash has gone on the Storm at home, however Sportsbet has seen more interest in the Roosters than Melbourne at the line. There's no splitting Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr in the popularity stakes for first try scorer. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Referee: Gerard Sutton. Assistant Referee: Dave Munro. Touch judges: Michael Wise and Jeff Younis. Review official: Ben Galea. Senior RO: Jared Maxwell.
Televised: Fox League – Live from 5.30pm.
NRL.com predicts: A forward-orientated battle looms in what should be a finals-intensity showdown. We're tipping Melbourne to prevail in another close contest with too much class out wide and through the middle. Storm by four.